- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

BOSTON | Well, so much for progress.

Just when the Washington Wizards thought they were starting to figure things out - winning two of their past three games - they learned it’s business as usual.

The Wizards suffered two injuries before the first quarter ended, and the Boston Celtics pummeled them 108-83 on Friday.

“Buzz sawed,” Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. “They jumped on us early; we couldn’t get on track. We did things uncharacteristic - missing free throws and all - and they were very, very efficient, so I take my hat off to them.”

Boston, which had lost three of four on a West Coast swing, rebounded against the Wizards (6-25) with six double-digit scorers. All-Star forward Paul Pierce led the way with 26 points in 26 minutes on 9-for-10 shooting, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range. The Wizards had only one starter who scored in double digits: forward Antawn Jamison, who finished with 14 points.

Before the Wizards even took the floor, they knew they would be without sixth man DeShawn Stevenson for the next 2 1/2 weeks because of lower back pain. They then lost center Andray Blatche in the first quarter to a sprained ankle.

“Guys are dropping, man,” said Caron Butler, who returned after missing three games with a sprained ankle and scored eight points. “Guys are banged-up, feelings hurt. But at the same time, we’ve got to push forward. It’s tough. Injuries hurt even more when you’re losing, but somehow, some way, we’ve got to pull ourselves up and find a way to stay positive.”

The game marked the second meeting this season between Washington and Boston (29-5). The first was played in the District on Dec. 11 and had a similar outcome: The Celtics boasted seven double-digit scorers and enjoyed a 34-point victory - the Wizards’ largest margin of defeat this season.

This time around, the Wizards never had a chance following the first four minutes. After exchanging baskets with Boston to the tune of four early ties, Washington gave up five straight points as the Celtics went up 13-8 with 6:51 left in the first quarter.

On the next trip down to Boston’s end of the floor, Blatche sprained his left ankle and went to the locker room to be examined. He returned to play two minutes in the second quarter, but the pain was too great and he left the game for good.

Boston closed out the first on a 15-6 run to lead 28-14; by the time 6:43 remained in the second, the Celtics led 42-20. The onslaught continued in the third as Boston distanced itself and took an 86-55 lead into the fourth.

The home team held an advantage in every major statistical category. The Celtics outrebounded Washington 47-35, notched 31 assists to the Wizards’ 22 and made 12 3-pointers compared with Washington’s two. The Celtics also shot 54.4 percent; the Wizards converted 38.3 percent of their shots.

“They killed us from the 3-point line. We couldn’t - I couldn’t - throw it in the ocean at all,” said Jamison, who made only six of his 20 shots. “We can’t struggle offensively and give them an opportunity to shoot close to 60 percent from the field. It’s not going to happen. They lost a couple, came home and were fired up. They gave us their best shot, and we weren’t able to counterpunch or get into a rhythm at all.”

If there was a positive in the wreckage, it was that, with the Celtics’ starters taking the bench for good at the end of the third, Washington’s did as well and the Wizards’ young players got extensive playing time. Nick Young led a cast of second- and first-year players with 15 points and JaVale McGee added six. Javaris Crittenton had four assists, four rebounds and five points. Oleksiy Pecherov, who hadn’t played since Dec. 15, notched six points and three rebounds in eight minutes.